The Palace of Versailles was originally a hunting lodge dating back to the early 1600′s. In 1623, Louis XIV took a keen interest in the small lodge and began expanding it into a massive palace. Construction lasted from 1661 to about 1710. In 1682, the King’s court officially moved to Versailles. It remained the home of the King’s of France and the seat of royal power until 1789.
After the death of Louis XIV, Louis XV continued to build and add to Versailles. His additions included the Royal Opera, the Petit Trianon (originally intended for Madame de Pompadour, but used by Madame du Berry and later Marie Antoinette), as well as renovations of the King’s Private Apartments.
Louis XVI did little to Versailles other than minor renovations. Marie Antoinette, however, renovated the Petit Trianon as well as her private apartments within the palace.
Le Petit Trianon
She also constructed a little village called Le Hameau de la Reine (The Queen’s Hamlet). Read more about Marie Antoinette’s private estate here.
In 1789, Versailles was marched upon by an angry mob (consisting mostly of women). They demanded that their monarchs be brought back to Paris. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette never returned to the palace. The furnishings of Versailles were eventually sold off by the Revolutionary government, but the building itself was to be preserved as a museum. It quickly became a depository for confiscated art work and furniture from princely homes about France by the government. At one point, the palace even became a hospital, with wounded soldiers being kept in the King’s private apartments.
With the rise of Napoleon, Versailles changed little. Napoleon opted to live either in Paris or within the smaller Grand Trianon.
Le Grand Trianon
He ordered extensive renovations to occur there which can still be seen today. His wife, Marie-Louise (who was actually a niece of Marie Antoinette’s), favored Marie Antoinetten’s style at the Petit Trianon and sought to preserve it. She also had some of the smaller apartments at Versailles renovated for her use.
Throughout the next few governments (including the Bourbon Restoration and the Second Empire), Versailles saw little change.
Today, the palace is now a museum, as originally intended by the Revolutionary government during the French Revolution. You may visit this sprawling complex, with the main Chateau greeting you, followed by gardens, the Grand Trianon, and Marie Antoinette’s Estate.
For images of the palace, grounds, and Marie Antoinette’s estate, be sure to check out our Versailles albums below:
For more on the palace, visit the Chateau’s official site.